Florida is home to countless condominiums, homeowners' associations, and cooperatives. These types of residences can offer convenient and affordable ways to live, but they often come with a bundle of laws and regulations that the homeowner may not know about. Earlier this year, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 791 into law, a bill that provides a package of new laws that affect the aforementioned types of residents. Taking effect on July 1, 2015, the bill creates several new laws that change the way homeowners' associations and condominiums can go about their business.
- The bill allows associations to conduct elections and other votes regarding membership electronically. The bill provides specific requirements that the association must use when setting up an electronic--or internet-based--voting system, including a board resolution approving electronic voting. An owner must be given the right to consent or opt out of electronic voting, and if they opt out the owner must be provided with a paper ballot.
- HB 791 amends the existing official records catch-all provision, providing that "all other records of the association . . . which are related to the operation of the association" are official records. Now, any non-written records like audio tapes or security camera footage are most likely not official records and therefore not available for owner review and inspection as a matter of right.
- HB 791 creates ways for owners who are not present at meetings to allocate their vote by proxy, using a digital or electronic method. Traditional methods required the owner to send his or her proxy by U.S. mail.
- Current laws require an association to include a provision in their bylaws providing for electronic notice to owners. The bill abolishes this requirement and makes it universally acceptable to provide notice to owners through electronic means, provided that the owner consents to the arrangement in writing.
- Pursuant to the bill, the Distressed Condominium Relief Act, which provides immunity from certain developer-based laws to companies that buy out distressed condominium projects, will be extended to July 1, 2018. The law was formerly set to expire on July 1, 2016.
- The bill provides some clarification regarding who has authority to levy fines against an owner. According to HB 791, the board of administration for the association has this power. Additionally, any committee formed to decide a dispute regarding a levied fine must be impartial and limited to that specific case, and its power is limited to deciding whether the levied fine should be confirmed or rejected.
- Following July 1, 2015, the association must subtract the number of owners who currently hold suspended voting rights from the total number of votes when calculating the minimum vote needed to approve any action. Additionally, the board's ability to suspend an owner's voting rights and use of common areas also extends to tenants and guests.
- Finally, HB 791 eliminates the preexisting clause requiring an association to bear legal liability for any uninsured losses, replacing it with a new limitation on the association's responsibility to insure damaged items.
Understanding the nature and scope of homeowners' association laws can be stressful, time-consuming, and unfruitful. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our experienced real estate attorneys have helped many residents throughout Southwest Florida assert their rights and protect their interests, including in Fort Myers, Napes, and Cape Coral. We offer a free consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to get started.